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Portland Thorns Turn Things Around with 6-1 Win over Washington Spirit

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The Thorns dismantled the Spirit with an overwhelming second half.

Stacey Neve

The Portland Thorns came into their match against the Washington Spirit as a side lacking any sort of cohesion following their 5-0 home loss at the hands of the Western New York Flash last week. The Thorns left the match as a side that look capable of scoring goals in droves and breaking down any opponent as they ran out the 6-1 victors in Maryland.

The Thorns got off to a quick start as they put the newly formed back line of the Spirit under pressure from the get-go. After several close calls, the Thorns' pressure paid off in the 5', as an attempted clearance out wide was charged down by Sinhead Farrelly. The blocked ball bounced to Alex Morgan just outside the Spirit box and, after a moment's hesitation to consider her good fortune, she squared the ball to Christine Sinclair at the top of the box. Sinc, with her first touch, curled the ball over Spirit keeper Chantel Jones to open the scoring.

Five minutes later the Thorns were back on the board again after a 10' fracas in the box eventually ended with the ball in the back of the net. The sequence saw the Thorns take what looked like three sure chances on goal only to have each cleared off the line by a well-placed defender. Finally, the ball took a high bounce into the air and Alex Morgan jumped above everyone else in the box and thumped home a header that went in just under the bar and improved the Thorns lead to 2-0.

The remainder of the half, however, was all Washington as the Spirit got their game together. Ratcheting up their defensive pressure and managing to disrupt the Thorns' passing, the Spirit found themselves on top of the game for remaining half hour.

Under pressure late in the second half, the Thorns' leaned on the steady presence of Michelle Betos in goal. Saving a series of weak headers and shots, Betos kept the clean sheet despite constant pressure from the Spirit.

In the second half, the Thorns began to fight their way back into the match, still struggling to control play despite their lead. However, it was the Spirit who would grab the first goal of the half, charging down the pitch in the 62'. With the ball at her feet at the top of the Thorns' box, Christine Nairn took an open shot that was blocked away by the Thorns defense. Ricocheting out of the box, the ball fell to Nairn again and with her second shot she would not be denied. Nairn took a low, hard shot, slotting the ball through the crowd in the box and underneath the sprawling Betos to pull the Spirit within one.

The Thorns were not done, however, and once again it was their high pressure on defense that paid dividends in the 70'. It was Morgan pushing forward and picking off the errant pass from Jones, then calmly chipping the Spirit keeper to get her second goal of the night.

The second half deluge was not over as second-half sub Jessica McDonald, brought on for Morgan in the 82', put in two more, both off of quick counters down the pitch. In the 85' Veronica Boquette broke down the left flank, sending a pass into the center of the pitch for Sinclair, who passed it along the the late arriving Farrelly. Farrelly fired a low shot that Jones was equal to, but the Spirit keeper could not recover in time to smother the rebound which McDonald buried in the the back of the net.

Two minutes later, in the 87', the Thorns broke down the left flank again, but this time it was Sarah Huffman sending in a well-placed cross through the box. With the ball skipping off the turf, McDonald did well to steer the ball on net, putting it past Jones and making the score 5-1.

Finally, the Thorns put a bow on the performance in the 90' when a long ball was brought down by Allie Long in the middle of a swarm of Spirit defenders. Getting free behind the Washington line, Long sent the keeper one way and put the ball the other, slipping her shot just inside the far post to bring the Thorns to the final score of 6-1.